Dedicating themselves to God’s work: (left to right)
seminarians Joseph Guinea, Joseph Samarasinghe and David Braithwaite pictured in the seminary chapel.
By Dan McAloon
Braithwaite, 28, of the life he anticipates he’ll lead as a priest and he quotes St Ignatius on the subject: “You must pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if it all depends on you.” Then with a pause
he adds: “Ignatius also said ‘Get out of bed each day as if the bed is on fire’.”
David is one of the new class of seminarians who have commenced studying for the priesthood at the Good Shepherd Seminary in
Homebush. His vocation, says David, is something he has known about “from the age of nine”. In the early 1990s, he was a Jesuit novice but left after two years to pursue a career in insurance and to travel overseas.
It was while on a retreat 18 months ago that he resolved to act on his vocation. “I came to the realisation that my vocation was the greatest gift I’d been given. I might have gone on successfully ignoring
it, but the realisation that this is what God wants for me brought great clarity and peace of mind.”
Yet, he is the first to acknowledge that personal sacrifice is a part of this calling. “The pressure from
friends and family is to not come to the seminary,” he says simply, with the acceptance of one who has heard the objections of well-intentioned, but misguided peers unable to accept the deeply spiritual motivation
behind his decision to enter the priesthood.
“On issues of faith they’ll patronise you, disagree, and say it straight to your face,” he explains. “It’s wonderful when people say nice things, but this isn’t
always the case, and its those times that grace from trusting in Christ comes to you.”
David traces the cynicism that pervades so much of society to the student protestors of the 1960s. “The baby boomers, for
all their talk about community, have done more than any other generation to destroy real community with their selfishness. This generation that was so young and vocal in the 1960s was really (indulging in) a kind of
romanticism. They reacted to institutions and said all rules are bad. But what of the consequences of this immaturity and self interest?”
David’s view is that with freedom comes responsibility, something he
believes many baby boomers, despite their earnest rhetoric, have conveniently avoided.
“The example that comes to mind is the ease with which marriages are dissolved. Now if you asked most people under 30 if
divorce causes problems for kids, they’d say yes.”
Another of the new seminarians, Joseph Samarasinghe, 47, is full of hope for the future of the Church. “I don’t think the reforms of Vatican II should be
confused with the radicalism of the 1960s as espoused by the likes of Sartre. In earlier days things were too strict, now we are resetting a humane balance, but not at the expense of a rich theological tradition.
History has given us the distance to reinvestigate the reforms of Vatican II.”
Joseph, a former businessman, was born the eighth child into a Catholic family of 10 in Sri Lanka. He lived for six years in
Germany before settling in Sydney. “This is my second feeling of a calling,” he reflects. After active involvement in parish life and working voluntarily with aged people, he found he still wanted to give more to
God. “Being here in the seminary is coming to the right environment for me. In my mind I am happy I took that step. This is my journey home. It’s the grace you get when God comes to you. It’s a surprise and it’s
One of the youngest seminarians, Joseph Guinea, 21, from Murwillumbah, said he also knew from an early age that he had a vocation for the priesthood. Joseph said his great uncle, Michael, a Marist
missionary in Japan, has been a strong inspiration. Throughout high school he had felt and resisted his calling, although he worked in pastoral care in his parish. The catalyst was an illness from which he felt he
might not recover. “The only thing that got me through my illness was prayer. That stripped everything down to the bare essentials. Yes, I had my life, but when I was struck down all I had was prayer and the grace
Coming to the seminary where he will study for the next five years has brought him resolution. “Now I’m at peace,” he muses. “I tried to get away from it, but the call was irresistible. God’s will